Stop It. Stop It Right Now!
Learning how to behave. Learning the good and bad ways to get attention. Getting past those couple of awkward years that included growing pains and questionable decisions. No, we’re not describing our teenage years — we’re talking about our business. In a lot of ways, Luke and Cat Photography feels like its own living, breathing, personality-filled being. And while we’re pretty darn proud of where it stands today, our business has definitely experienced its own version of all of our worst teenage choices: the horrible high school haircuts, the slang we tried out just to fit in, the whacko fashion choices. But that’s what happens on the road to maturity — you hit a lot of bumps along the way.
In the early days of Luke and Cat, we were actually calledIt was a name that seemed right at the time but which now seems embarrassingly off the mark, like if Luke suddenly decided to go by Billy Ray. (Nothing against the Billy Rays of the world, of course.) We’re pretty sure our current friends and followers would never recognize the jumbled promotional materials we used when we were just starting out. They featured photos of beat-up cowboy boots, smiling cartoon faces, and enough exclamation points to give any used car salesman a run for his money. Want to see what we’re talking about?
And as for our services? That particular misfire could be summed up in two words:. See, we took a look around at what other photographers were doing and decided the mini session (a.k.a. a session that’s shorter and cheaper than normal) was the thing to do.
We also figured the more discounts we offered, the more clients we’d attract, so we spent endless time fiddling with pricing and promotions. When we look back on those days now, we have the same thought as when we unearth a photo from our awkward teenage years:
If we only knew then what we know now.
Because those cowboy boot promotional cards and mini session promises had something in common.On the one hand, we weren’t creating images and materials that suited the sophisticated brides we wanted to bring in as clients. And as for the mini sessions — well, it was something we knew others were doing and it fed into our belief that every red-blooded person loves a sale. But while it did pull in a few clients, it wasn’t for the right reasons. We realized that we were thinking too much like shoppers who love sales and not enough like business owners offering a respected service. If you start discounting the way we were, you train clients to value sales and price over a quality experience. This was a big-deal epiphany that helped shape the way we do business… but it didn’t hit us overnight.
There are two bad habits that photographers with young businesses tend to have. One is thinking that the uncertainty and clumsiness of their early days is a rare thing. (Hint: just like those awkward teenage years, we’ve all been there.) The other is getting caught inWhen you’re just starting to get your feet wet, it’s tempting to look at the equipment, clients, and overall brand of a more established photographer and think “I don’t have that. I’ll never have that, so I’ll never be successful like that.” And, let’s face it, comparison is just a hop, skip, and jump away to an inferiority complex—especially for creative people. Looking to other photographers for inspiration is one thing; looking at them and seeing only their success and not the journey that got them there is something else entirely. If you’re caught in the comparison trap, we have just one thing to say:
As the very wise Theodore Roosevelt said:And, as the very eccentric Karl Lagerfeld added:
We didn’t always have the kind of resources and vision for our business that we do now — but as we began to transform Our Little Ranch Photography into Luke and Cat Photography, we infused our goals into everything we did. When one client with a tight budget worried about her wedding’s fake flower decorations, we focused our lenses on her hands holding the bouquet, or the way her grandmother’s ring sparkled. We found joy and beauty in everything and made it our personal mission toSure we made missteps along the way, but beating ourselves up because we weren’t as good as our photography heroes sure wasn’t going to help.
Eventually, something really cool happened.
We realized that we were laying the foundation for the brand you see today and that we could take it one step further. We used the experience we’d gathered to develop our Bride Guide so we could share our knowledge with clients. Not only was this helpful to couples planning their big day, it also was a way to cleanly display our style and attract like-minded brides while we were at it. Today, it’s something that defines our business — but we never could have made it happen without experience and, yes, those embarrassing missteps from our early days.
Take it from us: A young business just starting out isn’t so different from a teen trying to form an identity. So if our grains-of-sand-turned-pearls-of-wisdom make your rite of passage a bit smoother, we’ll consider it a win all around.
The Take Aways:
- When it comes to new businesses, everybody (we repeat: everybody) will go through the school of hard knocks. Don’t beat yourself up for needing a learning curve. Don’t get in your own way by obsessing over woulda-coulda-shouldas. Give yourself a break and don’t forget that this is your passion. Keep on keepin’ on and eventually you too will grow into your signature style.